NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng urges Government and employers to provide greater support to workers – particularly those who are embarking on the acquisition of deep skills.
He made the call during his keynote speech at NTUC’s inaugural Company Training Committee (CTC) Symposium, held on 21 September 2023 at Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability.
In his address, Mr Ng highlighted the concerns of workers, gathered from the #EveryWorkerMatters conversations (EWMC), sharing that workers who were undergoing longer courses or transitioning between jobs faced challenges in both finances and time.
“I would like to recommend to our Government, and to employers at the same time, to provide new support like training allowances to cover living expenses, and to alleviate the financial burden when they [workers] undergo time intensive training over longer durations to pivot to new industries,” he said.
Mr Ng also called on employers to provide protected time-off for training purposes to further empower workers to take ownership of their career development. He also hoped that more employers would provide incentives such as skills allowances, so that training translates into tangible outcomes for workers.
Mr Ng urged more companies to work with NTUC and to form CTCs, so as to kickstart their workforce and enterprise transformation.
He said: “By institutionalising workers’ training in tandem with business transformations through CTCs, we enable employers to enjoy increased productivity and better business outcomes, while workers benefit from improved wages, welfare, and work prospects, in a sustainable manner.
“This is what NTUC is doing to ensure our Workers’ Compact.”
Since 2019, NTUC has formed some 1,600 CTCs with companies and trained over 100,000 workers across various sectors.
Companies can tap on the NTUC CTC Grant, which is administered by NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute), to fund their transformation projects to raise productivity, redesign jobs and upskill workers.
NTUC aims to set up some 2,500 CTCs by 2025.
In response to the EWMC findings, NTUC wants more to be done to address the barriers workers face when it comes to training.
It hopes to encourage employers to provide skills allowance to motivate workers to attend training.
In a media release, NTUC wrote: “A skills allowance helps serve as a recognition for employees who invest time and effort in pursuing training to help plug their skill gaps.
“By strengthening the link between training and work-related outcomes, this can help influence workers’ attitudes and action towards training and result in improved work performance, higher productivity and greater job satisfaction.”
NTUC also calls on employers to introduce protected training time for workers to attend training courses that are beyond company mandated training. This will assure workers that their salaries or leave days will not be impacted when they attend training.
Other EWMC recommendations for employers include the introduction of inclusive training opportunities for older workers.
NTUC hopes that the Government can make policy changes to support a culture of training and lifelong learning within companies and amongst workers.
The congress proposes for the Government to consider providing a training allowance to enable all workers to undergo deep skilling. It proposes that the allowance can be tied to a percentage of workers’ salaries, which will help cover their living expenses and monetary concerns while they pursue long-term training.
NTUC also recommends that the Government consider subsidising workers’ pursuit of a second degree or diploma. This would enable workers to develop new areas of expertise in addition to their areas of expertise.
Another recommendation, which has already been announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during the National Day Rally this year, is for the Government to consider providing short-term unemployment support to those who have been involuntarily made unemployed. Mr Lee said the Government will be rolling out a temporary financial support scheme to support these workers.
NTUC also calls for a lowering of the eligibility age for use of SkillsFuture Credits to support youths in their transition to the workforce.